A number of changes will be implemented at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival to make the experience for racegoers even more exciting.

The introduction of a new race, earlier start times and changes in the order of races are all on the cards for next year’s meeting.

Racing will start at 1.30pm each day, 30 minutes earlier than in recent years. This will mean that five races each day will be broadcast live on Channel 4.

Cheltenham’s managing director Edward Gillespie, explained: “One of the lessons we learned from the unusual circumstances of The Festival in 2008 [where racing on Wednesday was cancelled due to bad weather and the races rescheduled for Thursday and Friday], was that a significant number of our customers enjoyed the earlier start that we had on Thursday and Friday.

“With the gates opening at 10.30am, it can seem a long time until the first race, so we are going to commence racing at 1.30pm.

“This has the added advantage of allowing a majority of racegoers to begin their journey home while it is still light, even on those days when we have seven races.”

And to add more excitement to the meeting the feature race of each day will now be fourth on the card.

The Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, The World Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup will now all take place at 3.20pm and will benefit from increased build up.

Thirdly a 2 ½ mile handicap for conditional jockeys, the Conditionals’ Hurdle, will be run on Gold Cup Day.

It will be the first time that promising young riders have been able to display their talents at the Festival.

Cheltenham’s director of racing, Simon Claisse, said: “We have long held the view that a race for the potential champion jockeys of the future would be a great addition to The Festival and a handicap for Conditional Jockeys was one of the races that was under close consideration when we first extended the meeting to four days.

“This will also be an opportunity for some of the large number of horses which are eliminated from the Coral Cup each year to have a run at The Festival.”


Video: Watch a rider’s eye view of riding up the hill at Cheltenham